Caffeine and athletic performance

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Having a cup of coffee first thing in the morning or to push through the mid-afternoon slump is a pretty standard thing for most people. Caffeine is a stimulant. It will give you a bit of buzz.

It makes sense that using caffeine to supercharge athletic performance.

What is Caffeine
Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant found in leaves, nuts and seeds of numerous plants. Its widespread social acceptance means that many athletes consume caffeine regularly over the day in varying amounts from coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks and, increasingly, from pre-workout supplements or caffeinated sports products.

Caffeine-containing beverages typically contain between 30-120mg of caffeine but this varies widely between products and brands.

Caffeine is becoming increasingly popular in sport to help improve performance and various caffeinated supplements and sports products are now being marketed to and consumed exclusively by athletes.

Caffeine and performance
The main performance benefits of caffeine appear to come from its influence on the central nervous system and resulting reduced perception of effort (exercise feels easier) and/or reduced perception of fatigue. 

Some other ways that caffeine can help improve mental and physical performance are as follows:

  • Caffeine can increase the body’s ability to burn fat via lipolysis, or the breakdown of stored fatty acids within the fat cells;
  • Caffeine has been shown to increase thermogenesis, or heat production, which helps you burn more calories;
  • Caffeine can raise endorphins, which increase feelings of happiness, giving you the exercise “buzz” that people often experience after working out;
  • Caffeine may also spare glycogen stores (carbohydrate stored within the muscles), primarily due to increased fat burning. This can enhance endurance performance.

Endurace exercise
Most of exercise/caffeine research is based on endurance training and performance. Historically, the most often cited benefit to consuming caffeine before a race or training activity was that it would increase the oxidation of fat, thus sparing muscle glycogen for when you really needed it, such as the final sprint to the finish line.

Maybe the caffeine simply makes exercise more tolerable, makes muscles work harder and better, and allows those exercising to do so harder, and for longer. Caffeine generally will give you a bit of a buzz. When taken prior to a workout, this “buzz” equates to an increased endorphin response to exercise.

So, if endorphins are high, exercise is more tolerable, even enjoyable.

The bottom line is that caffeine seems to boost athletic performance in endurance events, maybe through enhancing energy partitioning or an increase exercise induced endorphin response, make the activity more enjoyable.

Strength exercise
The effects of caffeine in sport aren’t limited to improving endurance. Research also indicates the benefits of caffeine in strength performance.

Whilst the results of studies are varied, they generally suggest that supplementation may help trained strength and power athletes.

This meta analysis, comparing 27 studies found that caffeine may improve leg muscle power by up to 7%, but had little effect on smaller muscle groups

Caffeine may also improve muscular endurance, including the amount of repetitions performed at a certain weight.

To summarise, most research indicates that caffeine may provide the most benefits for power-based activities that use large muscle groups, repetitions or circuits.

How to use caffeine for performance
Although early research was conducted using high doses of caffeine (6+ mg caffeine / kg body weight), more recent research indicates that lower doses can provide similar performance benefits with less negative side effects.

Individual responses to caffeine vary but typically doses in the range 1-3 mg caffeine per kg body weight are sufficient to improve performance (e.g. 70-210mg for a 70kg athlete).

Some experimenting may need to be done to determine the most beneficial timing protocol, which may include taking caffeine:

  • Pre-competition or exercise;
  • During competition or exercise;
  • A combination of both.

Potential side effects
High levels of caffeine intake can cause declines in performance through:

  • Increased heart rate;
  • Impaired fine motor control;
  • Anxiety and over-arousal;
  • Sleep disturbances;
  • Gastrointestinal upset.

Like any other supplement, it is important to trial smaller doses first in training activities prior to race day to assess individual tolerance and responses.

In Summary
The incorporation of caffeine into an athlete’s nutrition plan should be considered on an individual basis.

Caffeine is one of the most effective exercise performance supplements available. It is also very cheap and relatively safe to use.

Many studies have shown that caffeine can benefit endurance performance, high-intensity exercise and power sports.

The recommended dose varies by body weight, but is typically about 200–400 mg, taken 30–60 minutes before a workout.

Five… or seven basic human movement patterns

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Commonly, when you talk to somebody in the gym about programming or training they will always tell you how much they can bench or sometimes how often they squat.

A lot of people will tend to talk about the pushing or squatting movements. Sometimes they might say they do a few pull-ups here and there. The major focus is on the musculature that they can see. This not optimal for anybody, from the elite athlete to the occasional weekend warrior.

There are five basic human movement patterns.

You will always hear about the push, the pull, and the squat. Occasionally, you will hear about the hinge. The final basic movement is the loaded carry.

Some examples of the five basic movement patterns:

Push
Push-up, bench press, overhead press and dips.

Pull
Pull-up, cleans, rows and pull-downs.

Squat
Goblet squat, back squat, lunge and leg press.

Hinge
Deadlift and the kettlebell swing.

Loaded Carry
Farmers walk, suitcase walk, waiters walk, rack walks.

The five movement patterns in order of popularity:

  1. Push;
  2. Pull;
  3. Squat;
  4. Hinge;
  5. Loaded Carry.

Now, if you were place these movements in order of how they could impact you almost overnight, the order would look more like this:

  1. Loaded Carry;
  2. Squat;
  3. Hinge;
  4. Pull;
  5. Push.

Further to these movement patterns, you could add the following:

  1. Rotation;
  2. Counter-rotation.

This is basically creating, or eliminating force through the torso whilst the hips and/or shoulders move. It also helps the body stabilise the spine in the event of external forces being applied to the body.

Examples of these additional movements include:

Rotation
Russian twist, medicine ball rotational throw and sledgehammer swings.

Counter-rotation
Single-arm suitcase carry, single-arm swings, renegade rows and unilateral loaded deadlifts.

Programming workouts
When programming, just adding some form of loaded carry to you strength training can make huge impacts in just three or four weeks! Even if it is something simple like the farmers walk. I four weeks, you will be better. Your body will have improved posture and overall muscle density, which will transition across all of the other lifts.

A simple way to program is to choose an exercise from each of these basic movements and create a total body workout. Alternatively, you could combine two movements, such as a push / pull combination and squat / hinge combination and add the loaded carry to each workout.

Rotation and counter rotation exercises can be added to any workout for a more complete workout.

Training programs don’t need to be complex to work. Most of the time, the simple stuff works.

Why women should be lifting heavier

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Just about everybody will agree that women will benefit from lifting weights. With the introduction of modalities like Crossfit and F45 in recent years, weight training amongst women has gained popularity, and more and more of these women have been successful in their training endeavours like never before.

That being said, the reality is that is still less popular for women to be lifting heavy weights. This is the 1 to 5 repetition range that can get you real strong and lean. 

Here are some of the best reasons why women should be lifting a little heavier.

Improved body composition
Basically, this means less body fat and stronger curves. Which woman doesn’t want that? Most women join a gym and start lifting weights as part of a plan to lose unwanted body fat, but they don’t have a real goal or training end state.

They might follow a simple weight training program that will suggest moderately heavy weight in the 8 to 15 repetition range, or attend several high intensity group classes. Eventually, these workouts will feel easy, or boring, and it will be necessary to find a new challenge to keep the body positively adapting to the physical workload. 

If you have successfully mastered key movements like the squat and deadlift it may be time to lift some heavier loads with lower repetitions to increase your muscular density and strength. 

The stronger you get, the easier it will be to positively transform your body with continued training.

The take away point here is that lifting heavier weights develops muscular density. You will not see the serious muscle growth like some of the top bodybuilders and Crossfit athletes. That actually take years of intense training, combined with eating a lot of calories and targeted supplementation. You will however, develop the sleek sculpted curves that most women are thinking about when they say athletic and toned.

Healthier heart, brain, hormones and metabolism
Lifting heavier weight can have unique benefits to the human physiology that you can’t get from lifting lighter loads.

Heavy lifting protects the body by causing metabolic and functional adaptations to the muscles and brain that safeguard the body from injury, disease and excess fat gain.

Heavy lifting requires the training of multi-joint movements that use the whole body, such as the deadlift, squat and farmers carry. Training this way will develop the whole body as a functional machine capable of performing how it has evolved to perform.

Also, heavy lifting activates protective genetic pathways that keep the heart healthy and metabolism efficient.

Stress relief
Exercise in general is a great way to manage stress. The whole fat loss process is inherently stressful. Many women (men also) will fixate on it, and in doing so, increase anxiety levels which will force the body into a kind of threatened state.

Once in this threatened state the body will have elevated its cortisol levels as a protective measure. Cortisol is an important hormone when it comes to fat loss, because it is involved in the release of energy stores to be burned for fuel when blood glucose levels drop.

Optimal cortisol levels required for fat loss flow like a wave. They are at their highest in the morning upon waking, and lower throughout the day. Several factors, such as restricting food when hungry or training twice per day, forces cortisol levels to remain elevated for longer periods, which can slow the fat loss process.

Improved bone density
Another major health risk for women is bone health. Due to hormonal changes that occur during menopause, many women lose bone density and strength. Not only a risk for women, as the human body actually begins to lose bone density in its 30s and consistent strength training can delay or even reverse the process.

Improved mental and physical capacity
Not only does lifting heavier weight make you stronger and leaner, but it can have a positive effect on your entire life. You will stand taller and generally more confident overall. You will find an increase in energy levels, better sleep quality, and notice how much easier it is to run around with your children (if you have any), even carrying all of your grocery bags into the house in a single trip.

Simply put, being able to complete everyday tasks as required with ease and having the capacity to do more as life requires.

Strengthening your body will improve your overall quality of life.

The problem with Stair-master

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The Stair-master is a piece of gym equipment that has been designed to simulate the climbing of stairs. First of all, no machine will ever beat the real life task of climbing a set of stairs or hiking up the side of a mountain. The satisfaction of making it to the summit, along with the view, will always surpass the view of the gym car park or a row of televisions and or mirrors.

However when used correctly, the Stair-master can be used to supplement your training and have some cardiovascular benefits along with being a great tool in developing strength and endurance in the lower body.

This is not always the case as the majority of people are using the machine incorrectly.

The problem with the Stair-master
Almost every time you walk into a gym you will find people who don’t know how to use a Stair-master, or many of the cardio machines for that matter. The machine is meant to simulate climbing up stairs. Pretty basic right? Yet still you will find many people who find it necessary to add all of these un-natural movement patterns to try to complicate a simple movement.

Common mistakes people make on the Stair-master
In no particular order these are just some of the mistakes people make using the Stair-master.

Stair-master kickbacks
Not really sure how this movement developed? Did someone say that this would help give you bigger more developed glutes or did you see someone else doing this exercise so you thought it was worth giving it a go?

Just Squat. And Hinge. The act of kicking out your leg while using the machine does nothing for you other than giving you the impression that you think you’re actually doing something productive.

After you finish squatting, do some glute bridges and kettlebell swings.

Stair-master hanging
There are only two reasons you should need to hang on to the rails of a Stair-master:

  • You’re an older trainer and have poor balance;
  • You’re completely new to working out (or walking) and have developed no balance.

If you fall into the second category, you need to slow the machine down or take a walk around the park.

Stair-master sideways walking
Why? Is it because someone somewhere told you need to try to develop the outside (or inside) of your legs? Those muscles are probably already tight on you and if they’re not then going sideways on a Stair-master isn’t going to fix that.

Stair-master reading
Do you go to the gym to workout or do you go to the gym to read the latest gossip on the bachelor? There is a time and place for everything. Focus on the task at hand. If you want a good workout, then do a good workout.

Stair-master slump
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How often do you walk into the cardio section of the gym and see people slumped over on the Stair-master? The aim of the machine is to simulate the climbing of stairs. There is zero transferable skill to slumping while conducting this movement pattern.

It’s bad enough to sit slumped over at your desk all day, but to go to the gym afterwards and make it worse by slumping over on a machine for an hour? One of the main reasons the gym exists today is to help correct the imbalances created by living in the concrete jungle.

Just slow down, stand up straight, chest up and shoulders back. And get those hands off the rails!

Chasing calories on the Stair-master
Why? Because you need to burn 500 calories so you could eat some food afterwards? Or the night before? There is another whole post here. Chasing calories will not develop successful training or eating patterns.

Firstly, if you’re slumped over and holding onto the rails then the number on the display isn’t even an accurate measure of calories burned.

Secondly, all this is doing is creating a negative relationship with both exercise and food. This will almost always end in failure.

How to use a Stair-master effectively

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This picture tells a thousand words. Try a real set of stairs. Get outdoors and go for a hike. There is no machine that is going to help you with your movement so you actually have to do the work. You can’t lean on anything. You can’t read. It’s just hard work.

And that works.

The Turkish Get-Up

The one-arm get-up is general test of strength which had considerable appeal to most strongmen from yesteryear…

It has always made a hit with the theatrical public, for it was obvious to them that magnificent strength was being displayed when an athlete did a one-arm get-up with a heavy bell.

– Siegmund Klein (an American strength legend)

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The Turkish Get-up (TGU) is an outstanding exercise that develops strength, conditioning, mobility and stability throughout the entire body. It is both an excellent injury prevention and rehabilitation exercise for the shoulders. In fact, the TGU will give you shoulders that can take punishment, and dish it out.

It is a highly dynamic movement with enormous carryover to lifting heavy things. It does this by combining a series of movements from lying down to standing up with a heavy kettlebell overhead.

Many strong athletes have been humbled by the functional strength required to perform this movement, but mastering the TGU will make all overhead exercises safer and easier to perform.

A bit of history
The TGU was a staple exercise for the old-time strongmen and wrestlers. It has been said that this was the first and only exercise taught to many aspiring weightlifters to practice. The young athletes would have to master the TGU and be able to perform a TGU with 100 pound (45kg) weight with each hand.

When this goal had been achieved, the athlete was able to progress to the other lifts. There is some real wisdom behind that old-time methodology.

It takes tenacity and commitment to conquer this feat of strength. Secondly, it builds a solid foundation of strength that practically “injury proofs” the body, making it ready for more demanding training. It also significantly strengthens the major muscle groups, smaller stabilising muscles and the connective tissues.

Benefits of the Turkish Get-up

  • Promotes cross lateralization (getting the right brain to work with the left side, and vice versa);
  • Promotes upper body stability;
  • Promotes lower body stability;
  • Promotes reflexive stability of the trunk and extremities;
  • Ties the right arm to the left leg, and the left arm to the right leg;
  • Gets the upper extremities working reciprocally;
  • Stimulates the senses that contribute to balance;
  • Promotes spatial awareness;
  • Develops anterior/posterior weight shift;
  • Develops upper body strength, trunk strength, and hip strength.

How to perform a Turkish Get-Up
To keep it simple. The TGU can be broken down into three parts.

  • The half get-up;
  • The transition; and
  • The full get-up.

TGU: The starting position
Lying on your back, extend the arm holding the kettlebell in front of the chest with the arm locked out. If necessary, you can use your supporting arm to assist the initial lift or spot the weight. The goal is to get the weight into the locked-out position and not to build a big chest by pressing.

Post your left foot flat on the ground, with your heel close to your backside. This is the starting position. Remember to keep your eyes on the kettlebell throughout the exercise.

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TGU: The half get-up
From the starting position, with your supporting hand flat on the ground, roll slightly to your right side and sit up. Allowing the weight to drift forward slightly, then push off your posted foot to help you sit up.

It is acceptable to allow your free arm to assist slightly against the floor in sitting up. Finish with the left arm and kettlebell vertical (above your head), making sure the wrist is tight and elbow locked.

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TGU: The transition
In the transition, the athlete will move from the sitting to the kneeling position.

Begin by pressing the shoulder of your supporting hand (the one on the ground) away from your ear. This is important, but often overlooked step. It puts the shoulder into a strong position. It keeps the shoulder “active”, by keeping it in the socket.

Simultaneously press off your hand and posted foot, lifting your hips off the floor, forming a glute bridge. This will create the space necessary to swing your (right) leg underneath you as you slowly move into a three-point kneeling position.

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TGU: The full get-up
Slowly straighten your torso and pull your right arm up off the ground so that you are in a two-point kneeling position. Keeping your eyes on the kettlebell, and actively pressing the kettlebell straight up toward the ceiling.

Keeping your leg vertical, load your weight onto the heel, contract the outer glute and stand up, pushing the kettlebell up overhead as you straighten.

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From here, pause for a few moments, then reverse the steps under control to lower yourself on to the floor and back into the starting position.

Remember, there is no rush in completing this movement, and at times speed will destroy the movement quality, leading to an even more challenging or even dangerous practice. You will benefit from time under tension. So take your time and get it right.

Finally, always keep your eye on the kettlebell whilst conducting the movement.

 

Final thoughts
Mastering the TGU is an excellent investment of your time and effort. The TGU can compliment a variety of workout programs giving you many transferable benefits. It is versatile enough to be used as an injury prevention or rehabilitation activity, to a warm-up or even the main lift of your workout.

Personally, it is one of my favourite exercises (in and out of the gym), and has been a staple movement in many of my strength and conditioning programs over the years.

All about Resistant Starch

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What is resistant starch?
Resistant starch (RS) is a type of starch that is not digested in the stomach or small intestine, reaching the colon intact.  Simply put, it “resists” digestion. This explains why we do not see spikes in either blood glucose or insulin after eating resistant starch, and why we do not obtain significant calories from resistant starch.

There are four types of resistant starch:

  • RS Type 1 – Is found in grains, seeds and legumes and resists digestion because it’s bound within the fibrous cell walls;
  • RS Type 2 – Is found in some starchy foods, including raw potatoes and green (unripe) bananas;
  • RS Type 3 – Is formed when certain starchy foods, including potatoes and rice, are cooked and then cooled. The cooling turns some of the digestible starches into resistant starches via retrogradation;
  • RS Type 4 – Is man-made and formed via a chemical process.

However, this classification is not so simple, as several different types of resistant starch can co-exist in the same food.

Depending on how foods are prepared, the amount of resistant starch changes. For example, allowing a banana to ripen (turn yellow) will degrade the resistant starches and turn them into regular starches.

Where to find resistant starch
Resistant starch occurs in a number of natural foods. Some legumes, many tubers such as potatoes, and many fruits, especially unripe bananas and plantains.

There are several supplementary sources such as raw potato starch, plantain flour and tapioca starch. Raw (not sprouted) mung beans are also a good source of resistant starch, so mung bean starch (found often in asian grocery stores) can also work.

Food for your gut
Just like anything other living organism, your gut bacteria requires a food source. They need to eat to survive, and certain food sources are better than others. Simply put, resistant starch is a high quality food for your gut bacteria. This is the very basic, but most important function of resistant starch.

How does it work?

A healthy human gut has hundreds of bacterial species, outnumbering all other cells approximately 10 to 1. The overall balance of these bacteria has an important effect on health and wellbeing. Resistant starch resists digestion until it reaches the colon where it feeds your good bacteria.

The good bacteria feeds on resistant starch and produce short chain fatty acids, with butyrate being the most significant due its beneficial effects on the colon and overall health.  Butyrate is the prefered energy source for the cells lining the colon, it also has a role in increasing metabolism and decreasing overall inflammation.

Below are just some of the health related benefits backed by science to consuming resistant starch.

Improve gut integrity and overall gut function
As mentioned earlier, resistant starch improves the overall quality and functionality of your gut bacteria. It also inhibits endotoxins from getting into circulation and can reduce leaky gut, which could have a positive effect with regards to allergies and autoimmune conditions.

Improved insulin sensitivity
Consuming Resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity, even in people with metabolic syndrome.

Lowers the blood glucose response to food
A popular reason people avoid even minimal amounts of  dietary carbohydrate is the blood glucose response. It’s too high. Resistant starch lowers blood glucose spike after meals. This reduction may carry over to subsequent meals.

Reduces fasting blood sugar
This is one of the most commonly mentioned benefits of resistant starch. With a reduction in blood sugar levels, resistant starch may help you avoid chronic disease and improve your quality of life.

Increases satiety
In a recent human study, a large dose of resistant starch increased satiety and decreased subsequent food intake.

Enhanced magnesium absorption
Most likely because resistant starch improves overall gut function and integrity, resistant starch increases dietary magnesium absorption.

Consuming resistant starch may also have the following benefits:

  • Improved body composition;
  • Improved thyroid function;
  • Improved sleep.

Adding resistant starch to your diet

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In a modern diet a person may only consume about 5g of resistant starch daily, compared to many traditional diets where 20g or 30g was consumed per day. You can add resistant starch to your diet by either consuming it from a food source or through supplementation.

Several commonly consumed foods are high in resistant starch. These foods include, raw potatoes, cooked and then cooled potatoes, yams, green bananas, various legumes, lentils and raw oats.

These foods are commonly high-carbohydrate foods, making them out of the question if you are following a low-carbohydrate nutrition plan. However, even if you are eating a low-carbohydrate diet, you can still see some benefit from consuming some resistant starch.

You can add resistant starch to your diet without adding any dietary carbohydrates. This is where our supplements, such as raw potato starch come in to the equation.

Raw potato starch contains approximately 8g of resistant starch per tablespoon and almost zero digestible carbohydrate.

It is cheap. It does have a fairly bland flavour, but it can be added into your diet in a variety of ways, such as by adding to foods, smoothies or mixing it with water.

Four tablespoons will give you about 32g of resistant starch. Like most supplements, it is important to build up, as too much too soon may have disastrous results.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason to consume much more than that anyway, as excess amounts seem to pass through your body when you reach about 50g per day.

The benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium (Chemical Element)

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and the second most common intracellular cation (positively charged ion) after potassium, magnesium is required for the healthy function of most cells in your body, especially your heart, kidneys and muscles.

Magnesium’s benefits can include reduced symptoms from conditions such as chronic pain, fatigue and insomnia. Magnesium may also provide protection from a number of chronic diseases, especially those associated with aging and stress.

Essential to life, necessary for good health, and a vital component within our cells, magnesium’s benefits help our bodies maintain balance, avoid illness, perform well under stress, and maintain a general state of good health.

What conditions can benefit from Magnesium?
Magnesium is known to reduce muscle tension, lessen pain associated with migraine headaches, improve sleep, and address neurological disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Conditions linked to magnesium levels include:

Pain:

  • Headaches;
  • Muscle cramps and spasms.

Mental health and sleep:

  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Autism and ADHD;
  • Restless Leg Syndrome;
  • Insomnia.

Other conditions:

  • Psoriasis, Acne and Eczema;
  • Asthma;
  • Hypertension (elevated blood pressure);
  • Diabetes;
  • Osteoporosis.

Magnesium works within our cells. The powerhouses, factories and regulators of the body’s systems.

Because it is a necessary part of hundreds of biochemical reactions occurring constantly inside our cells, magnesium’s presence or absence affects the brain, the muscles, and the heart and blood vessels.

The importance of Magnesium?
There are fifteen essential minerals required by our bodies to function properly. These can be divided into trace minerals, those required in very small amounts, and major minerals, those required in larger amounts.

The six major minerals required in excess of 250 mg per day include:

  • Calcium;
  • Magnesium;
  • Potassium;
  • Phosphorus;
  • Sodium;
  • Chloride.

Magnesium impacts nearly all of systems of the body due to its cellular and molecular function. It has vital role as a co-factor to over 300 enzyme functions.

Not only one of the most vital and essential enzyme co-factors, regulating more reactions than any other mineral, but magnesium is also responsible for two of the most important cellular functions: energy production and cellular reproduction.

Magnesium and heart health
Insufficient magnesium tends to trigger muscle spasms, and this has consequences for your heart in particular. This is especially true if you also have excessive calcium, as calcium causes muscle contractions.

Magnesium also functions as an electrolyte, which is crucial for all electrical activity in your body. Without electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium and sodium, electrical signals cannot be sent or received, and without these signals, your heart cannot pump blood and your brain cannot function properly.

The heart has the highest magnesium requirement of any organ, specifically your left ventricle. With insufficient amounts of magnesium, the heart simply cannot function properly. Elevated blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and sudden cardiac death are all potential effects of magnesium deficiency and/or a lopsided magnesium to calcium ratio.

This systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2013,  concluded that circulating and dietary magnesium are inversely associated with CVD risk. Simply put, this means the lower your magnesium intake (and the lower the circulating magnesium in your body), the higher your risk for CVD.

Other notable effects include:

  • Is an important factor in muscle relaxation and heart health;
  • Creating energy in your body by activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP);
  • Allows nerves to send messages in the brain and nervous system;
  • Aids and regulates the body’s use of calcium and other minerals;
  • Assists in bone and teeth formation;
  • Regulates the metabolism of nutrients such as protein, nucleic acids, fats and carbohydrates;
  • Regulates cholesterol production and helps modulate insulin sensitivity;
  • Assists in energy production, DNA transcription and protein synthesis;
  • Maintains the structural health of cell membranes throughout the body.

Foods high in Magnesium
Magnesium in food sources were once commonly consumed, but have diminished in the last century due to industrialized agriculture and a shifting to more modern westernized diets. Below is a list of foods that are high in dietary magnesium:

  • Pumpkin Seeds;
  • Spinach;
  • Swiss Chard;
  • Dark Cocoa Powder;
  • Almonds;
  • Coffee.

Who should supplement with Magnesium?
Magnesium has been linked to reduced incidence of common conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome in large peer-reviewed, long-term studies.

Studies today focus on whether active magnesium supplementation may be one of the missing links to preventing these diseases, as well as several disorders affecting the brain, muscles and skin.

The good news is that magnesium supplementation is a safe and effective way for most people to ensure they are getting enough magnesium to stay healthy, before deficiencies arise.

How much Magnesium to supplement
While the RDI for magnesium is around 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex, many experts believe you may need around 600 to 900 mg per day.

The 10,000 swing workout

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In a nutshell

  • Challenge yourself with four weeks or five of intensive kettlebell swinging to test your grit and improve body composition;
  • At the completion of the program, you will have done 10,000 kettlebell swings dispersed throughout 20 workouts. You’ll do 500 swings per workout;
  • Between sets of kettlebell swings, do one of the following: chin-ups, goblet squats, dips, or overhead presses;
  • Master your kettlebell swing pattern. It’s not a squat. It’s a hip hinge and a hip snap. Your arms should not travel above your shoulders.

Making progress with training
As humans, we thrive when we push our boundaries, reach goals, and beat our personal records. If we’re performing faster, fitter and stronger, we tend to feel more alive.

So, if you want to improve, you have to seek out new challenges, struggle, adapt and overcome.

The 10,000 kettlebell swing workout is a challenge that will rapidly transform your overall body composition in just four or five weeks.

 

The Program
In four or five weeks, the athlete is going to perform 10,000 proper kettlebell swings. These will be split over 20 workouts. That is 500 swings per workout.

Between sets of swings, the athlete performs a low volume, strength movement. Training either four or five days per week. Training two days on, one day off, then repeat.

  • Men should use a 24kg kettlebell;
  • Women should use a 16kg kettlebell.

Breaking it down. Swing clusters, sets and repetitions
Following this repetition scheme to reach 500 total swings per workout:

  • Set 1: 10 swings;
  • Set 2: 15 swings;
  • Set 3: 25 swings;
  • Set 4: 50 swings.

That is 100 swings completed, or one cluster. Repeat the cluster another four times and you will have completed you’re daily total of 500 swings. Between sets is where more conditioned or experience athletes can add a low volume strength movement.

The strength movements
Use a strength movement with low volume between sets of swings. Some of the best movements are:

  • Overhead Press;
  • Dips;
  • Goblet Squat;
  • Chin-up.

Other movements to consider could be a front squat, weighted pull-ups or even muscle-ups. This is where you can really personalise your program. I would stay with presses or pulls. It is fair to say that after 500 swings per day, you probably won’t feel like adding any extra hip hinge work.

Use a 1-2-3 repetition scheme for most movements. Here is an example using the overhead press:

  • 10 swings
  • 1 press
  • 15 swings
  • 2 press
  • 25 swings
  • 3 press
  • 50 swings
  • Rest for 60 sec.

For the strength movements, use your five repetition max weight. If you’re conducting dips, use a 2-3-5 repetition scheme.

If you choose to lift five days in a week, conduct strength movement on four of the days and pick a day where you will only conduct the swings.

You can use a different strength movement each workout, rotating through the movements mentioned earlier. My preference is to use two days of both overhead presses and pull-ups.

Only use a single strength movement each workout.

Rest
After each set of 10, 15 and 25 repetitions, rest for 60 seconds. After each set of 50 repetitions, extend your rest to three minutes. During this longer rest period, perform some corrective work. Conduct stretches as required, such as in the hips, or lower back. Add in some mobility movements to keep your body loose.

Here is what a sample week could look like:

Day 1

  • 10 Swings
  • Press 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Press 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Press 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 presses.

Day 2

  • 10 Swings
  • Chin-up 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Chin-up 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Chin-up 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 chin-ups.

Day 3 – Rest

Day 4

  • 10 Swings
  • Press 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Press 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Press 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 presses.

Day 5

  • 10 Swings
  • Chin-up 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Chin-up 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Chin-up 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 chin-ups.

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Rest, or begin the cycle again

Swing Technique
There are several variations to complete the kettlebell swing. The two main variations being the American Swing, as seen in Crossfit workouts, and the Russian Swing.

The major difference between the two variations is that the Russian Swing is primarily a hip hinge movement with the kettlebell reaching to roughly chest height, and that the American Swing there is a secondary movement where the kettlebell is pulled overhead.

While there are uses for both variations of kettlebell swings, we will focus on the Russian Swing for this program.

The condition:

Swing the kettlebell between your legs and then in front of you up to chest level for repetitions.

The swing standard:

  • Maintain the box-squat alignment during swings and when picking up or setting down the kettlebell:
    • Keep your head up;
    • Keep a straight – not to be confused with “upright” – back;
    • Sit back, rather than dip down.
  • Extend the hips and knees fully on the top: the body must form a straight line;
  • The kettlebell must form an extension of the straight and loose arm(s) on the top of the swing.

What is next?
Firstly, congratulate yourself for completing this program. If done correctly, it can be  quite the challenge. Well done.

You’ll most likely be in much better shape than you were four or five weeks ago and you should be ready for the next challenge.

Keep swinging.

Natural ways to your lower blood pressure

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Your blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). There are two numbers involved in the measurement:

  • Systolic blood pressure. The top number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure. The bottom number represents the pressure in your blood vessels between beats, when your heart is resting.

Your blood pressure depends on how much blood your heart is pumping, and how much resistance there is to blood flow in your arteries. The narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.

Blood pressure that is measured lower than 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal.

Blood pressure that’s 130/80 mm Hg or more is considered high. If your numbers are above normal but under 130/80 mm Hg, you fall into the category of elevated blood pressure. 

In 2012-13, 6 million (about 34%) Australians, aged 18 years and over had hypertension, defined by having blood pressure ≥140/90 mm Hg, or were taking an antihypertensive medication.

The good news about elevated blood pressure is that lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your numbers and lower your risk. Without the requirement for medications.

Here a several ways to naturally lower your blood pressure:

Losing some extra weight (if overweight)
If you’re overweight, even dropping a few kilograms can reduce your blood pressure. You will feel better and you’ll also be reducing your risks from other medical problems.

This meta-analysis in 2016 reported that diets resulting in weight loss lowered blood pressure by an average 4.5 mm Hg systolic and 3.2 mmHg diastolic.

Exercise and physical activity 

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There is strong epidemiological evidence that regular physical activity and moderate to high levels of cardio-respiratory fitness provide protection against hypertension and all-cause mortality in both normal and hypertensive individuals.

Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure by up to 3.2 mm Hg and 2.7 mm Hg, respectively.

This doesn’t always mean that you have to go out and run marathons or spend over 15 hours in the gym per week. An increase in physical activity can be a combination of common activities such as running or weight training. It just as easily be adding incidental physical activity to your daily routine, such as:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift;
  • Walking over driving;
  • Playing with a child or pet.

Adding 30 minutes per day is all that is required to make a difference.

Dietary modification
Making smart changes to your diet such as cutting back on sugars and refined carbohydrates can help you both lose weight and lower blood pressure.

This 2012 analysis of low carbohydrate diets and heart disease risks found that these diets lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 4.81 mm Hg and 3.10 mm Hg respectively.

Another benefit of lower carbohydrate diets are that you generally feel fuller for longer as you’re eating more dietary protein and fats.

Eating a diet high in dietary carbohydrate from processed or refined sources without adequate physical activity can lead to unwanted weight gain, elevated blood glucose and higher blood pressure scores.

Modern diets have increased most people’s sodium intake, while decreasing overall potassium intake. Eating more potassium rich foods such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, tomatoes, bananas and rock melon can help lower blood pressure by normalizing the sodium/potassium ratio of the body.

Eat some dark chocolate

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Dark chocolate (at least 70%) has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Eating about 45 g per day may help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and inflammation.

Supplement your diet
Adding these dietary supplements can assist in lowering your blood pressure:

  • Omega-3 fish oils;
  • Whey protein (from grass-fed cows);
  • Magnesium;
  • CoEnzyme Q10;
  • Citrulline.

Quit smoking
Despite the smoking rate in Australia decreasing over the past two decades, 14% of Australians aged 15 and over are still daily smokers.

On average, a smoker’s life expectancy is up to 10 years less than non-smokers, and 60% of long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease. Giving up smoking has been shown to reduce blood pressure and overall heart disease risk.

Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol should always be looked at as a moderation food. It can elevate blood pressure in healthy individuals. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure by about 1.5 mm Hg for each standard drink.

Moderate drinking is considered to be no more than two standard drinks per day.

Cutting back on life stressors

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Modern westernised society is full of external stressors. Family, financial, social and workplace demands are just some of the factors contributing to elevated stress levels. Finding ways to reduce your stress is equally important to your overall health as it is to your blood pressure.

There are many ways to reduce stress, all you need to do is find which methods work best for you. Here are just a few ways:

  • Meditation and yoga;
  • Practice deep breathing;
  • Spending time in the sauna;
  • Reading a book;
  • Taking a walk;
  • Watching a comedy;
  • Listening to music.

Quality sleep
Blood pressure will naturally lower while you’re sleeping. If you’re not getting quality sleep, it can affect your blood pressure. People of experience sleep deprivation, especially those in middle-age, can be at an increased risk of elevated blood pressure.

Not everybody is able to get a good nights sleep with ease. However, there are ways that can help set you up for some restful sleep. A regular sleep schedule (going to bed and waking up at similar times daily), less time on electronic devices in the evening, exercising during the day and making your bedroom dark at night can help improve your sleep quality.

Many experts suggest that the sweet spot for optimal sleep is somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.

Final thoughts
If you do suffer from hypertension, some of these strategies can be of benefit. However, talk with your doctor about possible solutions to might work best for you to reduce your blood pressure without the use of medications.

What is Overtraining?

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Recovery is one of the key components to high performance in sports but is rarely appreciated by most athletes ranging from the weekend shuffler to the elite level endurance athlete. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the road to success is hard workouts, and the more the better.

A highly motivated athlete, no matter how elite, who has placed recovery on the back burner, will soon enough experience total fatigue. Waking up in the morning tired, unable to complete the easiest of training sessions. This can go on for days, weeks or even months. You’re overtrained.

How Overtraining can occur
Below is a list of just some of the reasons an athlete could become overtrained:

  • Inadequate recovery between training sessions;
  • Too much high intensity training, typically for too long;
  • Sudden drastic increases in distance, length, or intensity of exercise routine;
  • Daily intense weightlifting;
  • High volumes of endurance training;
  • No vacations, breaks, or off-seasons;
  • For athletes, excessive competition at high levels (i.e. trying to win every race);
  • Inadequate nutrition, typically in the form of caloric and carbohydrate/fat restriction;
  • Insufficient sleep;
  • High amounts of stress and anxiety.

Common Symptoms of Overtraining
There are many symptoms of overtraining, ranging from physiological to biochemical or even a compromised immune system. Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms of overtraining.

Physiological and Psychological

  • Decreased performance;
  • Decreased strength;
  • Decreased work capacity;
  • Changes in heart rate at rest, exercise and recovery;
  • Increased frequency of breathing;
  • Insomnia;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Increased aches and pains;
  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Depression;
  • Apathy;
  • Decreased self-esteem;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Irritability.

Immunological

  • Susceptibility to illness;
  • Slow healing of minor scratches;
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Biochemical

  • Negative nitrogen balance;
  • Flat glucose tolerance curves;
  • Reduced muscle glycogen concentration;
  • Decreased hemoglobin;
  • Decreased iron serum;
  • Mineral depletion;
  • Elevated cortisol levels;
  • Low free testosterone.

Overcoming Overtraining
The only way to overcome overtraining is adequate rest along with sound nutrition. Overtraining usually results from training mistakes, most commonly is an imbalance between stress and rest. This usually occurs as an athlete suddenly increases their training workload in either volume or intensity, sometimes both.

Overtraining can be avoided by following a long-term, structured training program that has scheduled rest and recovery days. A reduction in workload for a single training week, every 6-8 weeks is also very beneficial. Taking the time out to reduce both mental and physical stressors of the modern world can help with recovery.

Training programs should be unique to the individual athlete, taking into consideration, age, experience, susceptibility to illness and injury, along with any personal goals.